Sunday AM writethru after Friday/Saturday post:  A microbudget horror film, Blumhouse/Universal’s Happy Death Day, is beating the very expensive sci-fi Alcon Entertainment/Sony sequel Blade Runner 2049‘s second weekend, respectively $26.5M to $15.1M.

On some level, the mere result of that has to be a studio marketing chief’s nightmare: For all the efforts to build a massive event film in Blade Runner 2049, the motion picture is then undermined by a high-concept genre pic with a fresh-faced cast. Furthermore, Happy Death Day is pulling in a younger crowd, with 55% under 25. Months ago, we all assumed that Blade Runner 2049 would carry us through October. Who knew Happy Death Day would win this weekend?

Happy Death Day marks the third-best start this year for a Blumhouse title after Split ($40M) and Get Out ($33.3M), not to mention all three films are original movies, not sequels. That speaks volumes: It isn’t easy to launch low-budget, original fare and when it clicks, that’s excellent for the entire industry. Blumhouse’s gift, like Marvel, is that they know their audience’s wants, needs and turnoffs. The movie is benefiting from great play-ability coming out of its college screenings, and Universal’s razor-sharp marketing, which we detail below. Word of mouth is at a 52 “definite recommend” overall, but the horror/comedy is at 61% for the pic’s dominant female under-25 demo.

“Chris Landon made an original, inventive film that really connected with the audience and had great word-of-mouth. I don’t think we’d be where we are this weekend without Universal’s incredible marketing campaign. They immediately understood the potential for this film and were all-in from the very beginning. We are thrilled people are embracing this movie,” beamed producer and Blumhouse chief Jason Blum this morning.

Like all horror movies, Happy Death Day‘s business was front-loaded with Friday the 13th (plus $1M Thursday previews) boosting $11.6M, followed by a -20% yesterday with $9.4M.

Universal

Paramount sniffed danger when Blumhouse planted the title on this date, looking to grab Jennifer Lawrence’s femme fans away. At one point, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! was scheduled to open here, but then moved to Sept. 15. Indeed, per ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, women under 25 are the biggest demo at Happy Death Day, with 33%. Overall, Happy Death Day gets a B CinemaScore, which is outstanding for a horror movie (‘A’s are rare for the genre, i.e. Conjuring 1 & 2‘s A-s) and that grade outstrips the CinemaScores for Blumhouse’s Ouija movies (both Cs), Unfriended (C), The Purge (C), and most of the Paranormal Activity canon with the exception of Paranormal Activity 2, which earned a B. In addition, being a horror movie with a fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating (68%) also assists in spinning turnstiles.

Movie-going begets movie-going, and Happy Death Day had the great fortune of being a trailer that played before It for the last six weeks, so the pic received plenty of exposure before its potential target audience, and then some. Before you can say, “Well, Paramount did that, too, with mother!”, movie-goers are smart enough to decipher between a real horror movie and an arthouse gonzo thriller. Since dropping in June, Happy Death Day‘s original online trailer has been viewed to date more than 157M times. In addition, Happy Death Day was the only film advertiser with spots in front of Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do video, which broke YouTube/Vevo records with more than 43M views in 24 hours.

The cast and filmmakers participated in the opening night festivities of Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, where The Horrors of Blumhouse featured a Happy Death Day-themed maze with the killer from the film. Social media monitor RelishMix was over the moon about the stunt: “Universal tagged alongside 13 Reasons Why star, Dylan Minnette as he went through the maze. This is a great and unique tactic, to use a star who isn’t even in the film and target his fans, many of whom saw him in 13 Reasons, among other works.” In addition, RelishMix noticed heading into the weekend that positive word-of-mouth outweighed the negative: “Fans looking forward to Happy Death Day describe it as a combination of Groundhog Day and Scream. Movie-goers understand that this isn’t meant to be the scariest movie in the world, but the re-occurring day plot seems to have fans excited.”

Spots for Happy Death Day aired during genre TV series such as Fear the Walking Dead, American Horror Story, The Exorcist and Supernatural. Of note, there were four sequential spots telling an unfolding narrative in a media stunt within the Bachelor in Paradise premiere in August.

Typically, horror movies play best across the south in Hispanic markets, which is true here with Happy Death Day drawing 25% Hispanic demo to 45% Caucasian. But we hear as well that the movie generally played well across the nation.

Warner Bros.

Alcon Entertainment/Sony’s Blade Runner 2049 is -54% with $15.1M and a running 10-day cume of $60.6M, per Warner Bros. reporting this morning (rivals see the movie at this estimate as well). Saturday was +57% over Friday with $6.75M.  We deconstructed quite greatly last weekend in two pieces what went sideways here commercially for this sci-fi sequel, which cost in excess of $155M net, and the numbers speak for themselves. That said, we can’t chastise Alcon’s ambition to make this gorgeous, riveting piece of cinema that’s very faithful in all aspects to the original Ridley Scott 1982 film. As streaming encroaches on theater-going, more creative risks like Blade Runner 2049 should be made, because if the industry fails to do so, we’ll just be watching comic book movies for all eternity and there will be no reason to head out to the theater. Blade Runner 2049 is best savored on the big screen. True, a PG-13 rating and shorter film could have gone a long way in regards to getting Marvel fanboys in the room, or a marketing campaign that reintroduced the brand to a new generation. A cheaper film would enable us to size up the pic’s profitability in a better light. Hopefully, awards season carries Blade Runner 2049‘s prestige to a higher ground than on the box office charts.

Alcon

Through 10-days, Blade Runner 2049 is pacing 39% ahead of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival at the same point in time, which ended its stateside run at $100.5M. For Warner Bros., they see the film’s end game as a marathon. But then there are rivals who believe that Blade Runner 2049 will not clear $100M stateside, given the fact that it has to wade through October: There are nine movies opening before Thor: Ragnarok appears on Nov. 3, and that could push this 264 minute sci-fi epic off screens. Arrival launched at a different time during the second weekend of November, and benefited from Thanksgiving play, a slow pre-Christmas holiday period, then Christmas and awards season.

In its second weekend on PostTrak, Blade Runner 2049 gets an overall 78% positive score, with a continued turnout among the over-25 set at 80%, close to half over 35. Men over 25, natch, love it the best at 80% positive. A solid 60% said they would definitely recommend it to their friends.

Sony is hoping that Japan and China deliver greatly to push their foreign end to a profit after their net $90M investment. In the more mature markets where moviegoers remember the original Blade Runner – read Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom – there’s a rich ancillary in the studio’s Pan BSkyB TV deal. Ditto as well for Japan. The Culver City studio is first in the waterfall in regards to the pic’s revenue stream, will receive a share of global revenues, and is collecting a distribution fee on overseas ticket sales.

STXfilms

STXfilms has its SR Media and Chinese Wanda co-production The Foreignerwhich is beating the low end of expectations with a studio-reported $12.84M start and an A- CinemaScore and 79% overall positive from PostTrak. STXfilms showed off the trailer for this movie at CinemaCon 2016. However, the pic opened in China on Sept. 30 before opening stateside.

Recent China-U.S. collaborations have gone off the rails –i.e. Warcraft and The Great Wall–with their exorbitant production spends and over-the-top fantasy storylines, which interest no one but China. But The Foreigner is certainly one of the more financially stable Chinese co-productions, and it’s a movie that’s so grounded in its sensibility that moviegoers appreciate it: action-star Jackie Chan playing his age. STXfilms put themselves in a position to profit, given the pic’s financial structure. The pic was financed for $35M before P&A: SR Media and STX pre-sold foreign territories, raising more than half of the production costs and keeping China and the U.S. Counting in the pic’s $88M overseas B.O. — 80% alone from the Middle Kingdom — the worldwide gross for The Foreigner is already at $100M. As a Chinese co-production, The Foreigner will see more than the standard 25% rental which a U.S. title earns; in this case, it’s 45% of $70M, or an estimated $32M to date. Stateside P&A is estimated at $20M.

Critics were so-so, giving it a 56% Rotten rating. Chan is the biggest social media star with 65.3M fans. The social media universe is strong at over 120M, per RelishMix. PostTrak shows 47% men over 25, followed by 30% females over 25. Demos are spread out, with 47% Caucasian, 17% Asian, 17% African-American and 13% Hispanic. CinemaScore shows mostly everyone embracing The Foreigner with an A- or A. Sixty percent men showed up, 76% over 25, with 32% over 50.

RelishMix notices that Chan is the driving force, which was the aim of STX’s marketing campaign, with audiences piqued by the martial arts star in a more dramatic role. “Some have even pointed out that it looks better than other recent revenge thrillers. More curiosity surrounds Jackie Chan continuing to execute his own stunts, despite his age,” says RelishMix.  In digital, TV and outdoor advertising there was a focus on older males over 25. Secondary target was males 18-24, with a skew toward multi-cultural demos, focusing on Jackie Chan fans (Asian, African-American and Hispanic). Spots ran not only on shows like Chicago Fire and Thursday Night Football, but also targeted U.S.-based Chinese language channels. Outside of the typical national TV talk show and radio, Chan appeared at the American Cinematheque’s Chan-A-Thon in Los Angeles, a surprise NYC AMC Empire on 42nd screening (he was chased on foot and bicycle by rabid paparazzi) and he stoked social media with an appearance at YouTube’s Chelsea Market space for a meet & greet with the platform’s top influencers and social media personalities.

Open Road Films

Then we have two sophisticated adult films which aren’t popping. Open Road’s Marshall is doing OK with a $3M take on 821 locations, while Annapurna’s spicy polygamy drama Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is truly nosediving with an $737K start on 1,229 screens. Both received similar certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 86%-87%. So why isn’t anyone going? The notion this fall among distribution heads is that there’s a disconnect between critics and audiences. Professor Marston tried to hook its sail to the Wonder Woman summer craze (it is about her authors, after all) with a presence at Comic-Con and a TIFF premiere. Point blank, neither title is screaming awards season contender, and if they were, there would be an attempt to protect these titles as limited releases and build up word-of-mouth. When distributors go wide with niche adult dramas such as this, it means that there’s more risk in a platform roll-out, and the best bet is to make as much money as possible in as many theaters as possible. In addition, with so many awards season dramas coming down the pike –i.e. Roman J. Israel, Esq; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Lady Bird; and Last Flag Flying — distributors have but no choice to find a place on the fall schedule and simply go. 

Annapurna

Despite great performances, Marshall is a straightforward courtroom drama that doesn’t pack the punch. As far as Professor Marston, the polygamy of it all just isn’t so sexy. As Variety‘s Peter Debruge rails, “This is arguably the phoniest film you’ll see all year, marred by clumsy direction, over-obvious acting and a wooden script that skews what was so radical about the thruple’s arrangement into something tame and downright boring.”

On the specialty side, Andy Serkis’ love story Breathe and Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin did not wow in their opening, with theater averages in the single digits.

On the other hand, A24’s The Florida Project did fantastic business drawing $401K at 33 sites for a 10-day run of $624K.

Studio-reported estimates for Oct. 13-15 as of Sunday AM:

1.)Happy Death Day  (UNI/BLUM), 3,149 theaters / $11.65M Fri. (includes $1M previews) /$9.4M Sat/ $5.45M Sun/ 3-day cume: $26.5M / Wk 1

2.)Blade Runner 2049  (ALC/WB/SONY), 4,058 theaters (0)/ $4.3M Fri. /$6.8M Sat/$4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $15.1M (-54%) /Total: $60.6M/ Wk 2

3.)The Foreigner  (STX), 2,515 theaters / $4.75M Fri. (includes $775K) /$4.9M Sat/ $3.2M Sun/ 3-day cume: $12.84M / Wk 1

4.) It  (NL/WB), 3,176 theaters (-429) / $1.96M Fri./$2.6M Sat/$1.45M Sun/3-day cume: $6M (-39%) / Total: $314.9M / Wk 6

5.)The Mountain Between Us  (FOX), 3,259 heaters (+171)/ $1.68M Fri. /$2.5M Sat/$1.47M Sun/3-day cume: $5.65M (-46%)/Total: $20.5M/ Wk 2

6.) American Made  (UNI), 3,098 (+67) / $1.59M Fri. /$2.4M Sat/ $1.4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $5.4M (-36%)/Total: $40.1M/ Wk 3

7.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 2,982 theaters (-506) / $1.48M Fri./$2.4M Sat/$1.42M Sun/3-day cume: $5.3M (-39%) / Total: $89.6M / Wk 4

8.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 3,053 theaters (-558) / $1M Fri./$2M Sat/$1.3M Sun/3-day cume: $4.3M (-38%) / Total: $51.6M / Wk 4

9.)My Little Pony  (LG), 2,528 theaters (0) / $956K Fri./$1.87M Sat/$1.17M Sun/3-day cume: $4M (-55%) /Total: $15.5M/ Wk 2

10.) Victoria & Abdul  (FOCUS), 900 theaters (+168) / $870k Fri./$1.2M Sat/ $1M Sun/3-day cume: $3.1M (-30%)/Total: $11.3M/ Wk 4

11) Marshall (OR) 821 screens, $1M Fri /$1.2M Sat/$789K Sun/3-day: $3M/Wk 1

Notables:

A24

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (ANP) 1,229 screens, $249K Fri /$296K Sat/ $192K Sun/3-day: $737K/Wk 1 

The Florida Project (A24), 33 theaters (+29) / $114k Fri./$155K Sat/$132K Sun/PTA: $12,1K/ 3-day cume: $401K (+155%)/ Total: $623,9K/Wk 2

Human Flow (MAG) 3 screens, $16K Fri /PTA: $15,6K/3-day: $47K/Wk 1 

Goodbye Christopher Robin (FSL) 9 screens, $17,6K Fri /$22,6K Sat/$15,6K Sun/PTA: $6,2K/3-day: $55,8K/Wk 1 

Breathe (BST) 4 screens, $11K Fri /$19K Sat/$12K Sun/PTA: $6,5K/3-day: $26,2K/Wk 1 

**********

Industry estimates for the weekend of October 13-15 as of Saturday AM:

1.)Happy Death Day  (UNI/BLUM), 3,149 theaters / $11.65M Fri. (includes $1M previews) / 3-day cume: $26.5M / Wk 1

2.)Blade Runner 2049  (ALC/WB/SONY), 4,058 theaters (0)/ $4.3M Fri. (-66%)/ 3-day cume: $14.3M (-56%) /Total: $59.8M/ Wk 2

3.)The Foreigner  (STX), 2,515 theaters / $4.76M Fri. (includes $775K) / 3-day cume: $12.4M / Wk 1

4.) It  (NL/WB), 3,176 theaters (-429) / $1.95M Fri. (-27%)/3-day cume: $6.47M (-35%) / Total: $315.3M / Wk 6

5.)The Mountain Between Us  (FOX), 3,259 heaters (+171)/ $1.7M Fri. (-51%) /3-day cume: $5.6M (-47%)/Total: $20.5M/ Wk 2

6.) American Made  (UNI), 3,098 (+67) / $1.58M Fri. (-32%)/ 3-day cume: $5.3M (-37%)/Total: $40M/ Wk 3

7.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 2,982 theaters (-506) / $1.48M Fri.  (-35%)/3-day cume: $5.1M (-41%) / Total: $89.5M / Wk 4

8.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 3,053 theaters (-558) / $1M Fri./3-day cume: $4.4M (-37%) / Total: $51.6M / Wk 4

9.)My Little Pony  (LG), 2,528 theaters (0) / $955K Fri. (-68%)/3-day cume: $3.7M (-58%) /Total: $15.1M/ Wk 2

10) Marshall (OR) 821 screens, $1M Fri /3-day: $3M/Wk 1

11.) Victoria & Abdul  (FOCUS), 900 theaters (+168) / $866k Fri. (-30%)/3-day cume: $2.9M (-30%)/Total: $11.1M/ Wk 4

Notables:

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (ANP) 1,229 screens, $248K Fri /3-day: $800K/Wk 1 

The Florida Project (A24), 33 theaters (+29) / $114k Fri. (+115%)/PTA: $10,4K/ 3-day cume: $343K (+118%)/ Total: $566K/Wk 2

Raji Gari Gadhi 2 (KINO) 100 screens, $76K Fri /PTA: $2,4K/3-day: $240K/Wk 1 

Human Flow (MAG) 3 screens, $16K Fri /PTA: $15,9K/3-day: $48K/Wk 1 

Goodbye Christopher Robin (FSL) 9 screens, $17K Fri /PTA: $6,4K/3-day: $58K/Wk 1 

Breathe (BST) 4 screens, $12K Fri /PTA: $9K/3-day: $36K/Wk 1 

Tom of Finland (KINO) 1 screens, $3K Fri /PTA: $11K/3-day: $11K/Wk 1 

2nd Update, Friday 12:50PM: After a solid Thursday night, Universal/Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day is looking at a Friday at around $9M for $20M-$22M weekend opening at 3,149 theaters, easily taking No. 1 out of the clutches of Alcon Entertainment/Sony’s Blade Runner 2049 which is poised to decline 55% for a $14.8M second weekend at 4,058. That will put the 10-day cume for the Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi sequel at $60.3M.

Warner Bros.

STXfilms has The Foreigner counting $3.78M today and $10.1M for the weekend at 2,515. The Jackie Chan film has already amassed $78M abroad.

Friday the 13th bodes well for horror films and New Line/Warner Bros. It will reap the day’s good fortune with a $6.5M-$7M sixth weekend at 3,176 venues for a running cume of $315.9M.

20th Century Fox’s The Mountain Between Us is eyeing $5.4M in weekend two in 3,259, -49% for a 10-day of $20.2M by Sunday.

At 821 locations, Open Road’s Marshall court room drama is looking at $3M-$4M this weekend after a $1.2M start today.

We’ll have more updates later.

1ST Update, Friday 7:16AM: Universal/Blumhouse’s PG-13 horror pic Happy Death Day stabbed $1M in previews last night from 2,450 theaters. The Christopher Landon-directed pic which is described as Scream meets Groundhog Day is expected to bring in $15M-$20M this weekend, potentially giving it the No. 1 spot.

One million dollars is a solid start for the third Blumhouse release this year, charting above the $911K Thursday night of Ouija ($8.3M opening day, $19.9M weekend opening), Unfriended‘s $656K ($6.8M, $15.8M FSS), and just under Insidious Chapter 3‘s $1.55M preview night ($10.5M, $22.7M FSS).Happy Death Day is in line with Blumhouse’s previous microbudget releases this year with an estimated production cost before P&A of $4.8M. The movie carries a 69% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Foreigner
STX Entertainment

STXfilms has its U.S. China co-production The Foreigner starring a serious, more somber Jackie Chan and directed by Martin Campbell. It made $775K in previews last night. The $35M-budgeted production which has already collected $78M in foreign B.O., 78% from the Middle Kingdom, is poised to make $13M-$15M per industry estimates. STXfilms is eyeballing $10M at 2,515 locations. Sparkle Roll Media Corporation and Wanda Media Co., Ltd are also producing with STXfilms.

Open Road Films

Then there’s a pair of adult-dramas: Open Road’s Marshall at 821 sites and Annapurna’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women which is opening in 1,229 sites. Marshall, which was financed by China’s Starlight for $12M, was acquired by Open Road in June 2016 before production for no MG (which isn’t unusual on indie films). Open Road will be putting up the P&A. Expectations are in the $3M-$4M. Directed by Django Unchained producer Reginald Hudlin, Marshall follows a young Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) as a young attorney, well before his Supreme Court Days, who works with a young, courageous Jewish lawyer, Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad) in a segregationist Connecticut court to defend a black chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) charged with sexual assault and attempted murder of his white socialite employer (Kate Hudson). Rotten Tomatoes score is 84%.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women
Annapurna Pictures

Professor Marston tells the story about the creator of the Wonder Woman comic and the polygamous relationship that inspired him with his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). Professor Marston is looking at between $2M-$2.5M.

Alcon Entertainment/Sony’s Blade Runner 2049 via Warner Bros. ends its first week with $45.5M. Industry estimates have the Denis Villeneuve sci-fi film clearing $16M-$17M for a No. 2 slot in its second weekend, -50%. Blade Runner 2049 made $2.2M yesterday, leading all films in regular release. 20th Century Fox/Chernin’s wilderness survival drama The Mountain Between Us ended its first week with $14.8M and slotted second on Thursday with $719K.